NOT even the defending champion could stop a streaking Petron side on its track.
The Boosters rode on the offensive explosion of import Elijah Millsap to survive reigning PBA Governors Cup title holder Rain or Shine, 91-83, and take the headstart in their semifinals series on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Millsap finished with a conference-high of 41 points including 11 straight points in a four-minute span in the fourth quarter at a time when nothing seemed to be going for Petron.
By the time the younger brother of NBA player Paul Millsap hit a three-pointer to cap his scoring array, the Boosters already turned around a four-point deficit into a 84-81 lead at the final 3:43 mark.
“He bailed us out tonight,” said winning coach Gee Abanilla of Millsap, who eclipsed his previous high of 35 points scored against Alaska.
The Petron import also had 14 rebounds and shot 3-of-5 from three-point range in the win that extended the Boosters streak to 10 dating back from the single-round elimination all the way to the quarterfinals. It is also the longest-winning run for the San Miguel franchise in the last 24 years.
“He’s really playing a great game, and tonight he just took it to another level,” said Alex Cabagnot of Millsap.
Game Two is set Wednesday at the Astrodome with the Boosters aiming to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Cabagnot added 18 for Petron and was the first local to score for the team in the fourth period. But his three-point basket with 79 seconds to go was a huge one as it gave the Boosters an 87-83 lead.
Rookie Junemar Fajardo also had a good game for Petron with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
“It’s a good thing we won this game. We’re expecting a very close game because they’re the defending champion. They played really well and matched up pretty well against us,” said Abanilla of the Elasto Painters.
Import Arizona Reid led Rain or Shine with 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Jeff Chan was the lone local to finish in double figures with 16.
The Elasto Painters trailed by as many as 10 (58-48) early in the third, but turned it around to take a 76-73 lead in the fourth period after the Boosters missed their first nine shots of the quarter.
Millsap was then called for a technical foul after throwing the ball on Ryan Arana, paving the way for a Chris Tiu free throw that made it a 77-73 for Rain or Shine.
The Petron import then took charge from there and began unraveling his offense to turn the game around for the Boosters.
Petron (91) - Millsap 41, Cabagnot 18, Fajardo 15, Lassiter 4, Santos 4, Tubid 4, Lanete 3, Lutz 2, Kramer 0, Ildefonso 0.
Rain or Shine (83) - Reid 28, Chan 16, Belga 7, Arana 7, Matias 6, Rodriguez 6, Cruz 5, Uyloan 4, Norwood 2, Tiu 1, Tang 1, Quinahan 0, Ibanes 0.
Quarterscores: 26-23; 49-44; 73-68;91-83.